Friday, September 30, 2016
How did we find him, you ask? Well, I was backing my truck out of our driveway to go take posters to all the places in the county where someone might take a stray dog. Suddenly two kids appeared behind me, waving like crazy. When I hopped out to find out why, they told me they'd seen Miki – and they gave me a credible description of him. They told me exactly where they saw him, and then they had to take off for school. I started walking around the neighborhood anywhere and everywhere within a couple hundred yards of where they spotted him – I got there just ten minutes or so after they saw him, so I figured he couldn't have gone far. After about 15 minutes of hollering my head off, there was no sign of him.
I went back inside our house to talk it over with Debbie – specifically, to consider whether it made more sense to keep looking for him locally (as we couldn't be certain that the kids' sighting was either credible or actually Miki), or to carry on with the poster distribution. We decided to keep searching. I opened the door into our garage to head out (the big garage door was already open) and ... there was Miki, right at the bottom of the steps into the garage. I called him, incredulously, and he actually ran away a bit, frightened, but then recognized me and came inside. Got him! I figure he must have heard me calling, came toward the sound of my voice, but never started barking himself. I was inside talking with Debbie for no more than 2 or 3 minutes, so he must have been right behind me.
The poor fellow is massively covered with burdock burrs, though. The groomers are facing quite a challenge with him. And now it's time for me to go.
Oh, happy day!
Thursday, September 29, 2016
We're completely baffled by this. Of all our dogs, he's the least likely one to even try to get out of the yard. Race, our border collie, would be the likely suspect for that. Miki is old and lazy; taking a nap in the sun is more his style. The ground is soft and muddy right now, so I looked at the entire fence perimeter trying to find the place where he escaped. Nothing. There's no sign at all of where or how he got out. Furthermore, even if he did get out, he most likely behavior he'd exhibit is to run to the front door and bark. We also can't imagine that someone came and took him – with three other younger, prettier dogs right there with him. Not to mention that all four dogs would have raised quite a stink should someone ever have tried that!
So we're stuck here without being able to understand what happened, how it happened, or where on earth poor Miki might be. All we can hope for is that he's safe somewhere, and eventually someone contacts us about him...
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
On Monday a giant dumpster was delivered to our house, per my request. This beast holds 30 cubic yards of stuff headed for the dump, and I ordered it up so that I could clean up piles of crap that have accumulated ever since we first bought the house up here. There's cardboard, old pallets, a couple cubic yards of foam packing material, stuff left by the previous owner that we didn't want and couldn't give away (carpet remnants, drapes, and all sorts of other things), and more things than I care to list. Much of my time since Monday morning was spent loading junk into my ATV trailer, then unloading the trailer into the dumpster. I'm nearly done now, and I'm feeling it in every muscle (even my earlobes are tired!). All that remains is a 200 lb container of salt (from the old water softener I replaced two years ago) and some fencing remnants (more on that below). There's a Mormon horde scheduled to appear here on Saturday to help me get that salt container out of the basement and into the dumpster. On Monday, the dumpster will be gone, and our premises considerably neater!
The fence I mentioned above was a five strand barbed wire fence stretching for 600' along the west side of our property. A local lad named Jacob H., a mere 14 years old, volunteered to take it down for me at the rate of $7.50 an hour. He'd work after school. I figured it would take him four or five days, 3 or 4 hours a day, so worst case $150 or so. I'd happily pay that to avoid the nasty work of tearing a fence down! So yesterday evening he started ... and finished, an hour and a half later. I didn't watch him, but he must have worked like a demon possessed – he took out dozens of T-posts, clipped the barbed wire, rolled it up, and piled up the T-posts – all in 90 minutes! I paid him $20 (which got a big smile) ... and now I'm going to use him anywhere I could use physical help. This afternoon he's going to come back and help me load all that junk on my tractor and haul it the quarter mile or so to the dumpster. Another $20 and I won't have to jump on and off the tractor a few dozen times. Deal!
I had a long conversation with Kevin, the fellow up in Montana who is making our custom fireplace door. It was such a pleasure to talk with a craftsman like that! He had some questions about how to make it, all great ones, and promised me a drawing with measurements I could check. I got the drawing last night, and this morning I checked it all out – it was spot on. He's starting the fabrication today, and we should have it in our hands within a couple of weeks. Assuming we like the result (and we're certainly expecting to!), we will be using him for some other custom metalwork we'd like to have done. It's a good resource to have!
Monday was a day for Debbie and I to celebrate – we got two pieces of good news on the same day. The first good news was that her latest lab work showed her sodium and calcium levels both down (through diet and drugs) to levels that mean she can safely take the drug her endocrinologist wants her to take: Forteo. We've been waiting almost two months for her sodium and calcium levels to get down there, working out a diet and adjusting drug dosages along the way. Big step! Forteo is a very expensive drug, though: about $2,500 per month for the daily self-administered injections. Our insurance company denied coverage for it, wanting Debbie to take a different drug (much lower cost) for two years first, then only if that failed would they cover the Forteo. Her endocrinologist was certain the other drug would fail, given Debbie's condition, so she appealed the insurance company's denial. The second piece of good news on Monday was that the insurance company's review board agreed with her endocrinologist, so now she's approved for Forteo! As I was writing this paragraph, the first month's worth of Forteo showed up by courier. Tomorrow we travel to Salt Lake City, to the endocrinologist's office, where they will train Debbie on how to administer the drug. This is the first step to getting her bone density back up, and a big milestone for her. Hooray!
Monday, September 26, 2016
Below are four photos of me. The first one is undated, says “Tom” on the back in my mom's handwriting, and looks like a school photo. The second one is dated by the lab as September 1957, and in my mom's handwriting on the back says “Tommy”. I'd have been just five. I've no idea where that was. That Dixie cup would have been one of the old-fashioned kind made of waxed paper; don't see them any more! The third photo is undated, part of a series that looks like we had a picnic on the Maine coastline. The last photo is obviously a school portrait, and on the back says in my mom's handwriting: “1964 Tommy Handsome!”. The latter is not an assessment I ever hear any more! :)
Saturday, September 24, 2016
Well, we noted that the non-clumping litter is generally only appearing in one of our litter boxes. Since cats are creatures of habit, and usually use the same litter box, that makes sense. So Debbie had the idea of setting up a webcam that recorded, and we could watch the video to see which cat it was.
Yesterday we did lots of running around for various chores, and I didn't get a whole lot done. I did, however, have a chance to start a conversation with an old Navy buddy of mine (Mike B.) over a project both of us would enjoy having: a programmable box joint jig. If you're a woodworker, this will make sense to you, otherwise you can skip the rest of this post. :) A box joint (also called a “finger joint”) is made by cutting "fingers" in the ends of two pieces of wood such that the fingers interleave perfectly with each other. There are lots of ways to do this, but in all cases the cutting must be done very precisely, or else the fingers won't fit together correctly. One way to do this (and perhaps the most common method) is to use a table saw, making repeated passes on the work piece to cut out the space between the fingers. You can buy “jigs” designed to make this easier, but it's still quite a bit of work – error-prone work! – to get them cut right.
As if that weren't enough challenge, things get even more interesting if you want to make something with more than four sides. For instance, if you want to make an octagonal serving tray with sides a few inches high, then those fingers have to be cut at an angle of 45° to the end (instead of the usual 90°). Even more challenging is if you want something that has slanted sides. For instance, suppose you want to make a hexagonal trash can, with 6" sides at the bottom, and 8" sides at the top. That's quite challenging, as you need a compound angle. Then there's the question of the finger width. Conventionally the fingers are all the same width, as that's the easiest way to do the work. But aesthetically it would be interesting to be able to vary the finger width.
Mike saw a programmable box joint jig online, and that inspired us to come up with a much more capable version. Mike and I have started a little collaboration for this gadget, which we're calling “BoxZilla”. It will be able to do the simple 90° joints, but also the more complex joints as well. It will be completely controlled by a Raspberry Pi computer, a little $35 wonder that's millions of times more powerful than the computers I started building in the '70s. Mike is going to do the mechanical and electronic design and construction, and I'm going to do the software. This will be a very fun project for both of us, and best of all both of us will hugely enjoy using the thing when we get done. Mike is considering selling them, too. We're just getting started on it now. I'll post about our progress from time-to-time...
Friday, September 23, 2016
Now we don't have a burglary problem around here – house burglaries are very rare, and most people here don't even bother locking their doors. I suspect that's partly because any burglars would know that everyone here is armed to the teeth, and also of a mindset that says one less burglar in the world makes for a better world. :) It's probably also partly because everyone here watches out for each other, and because there aren't a lot of people with interesting possessions to burgle. So we generally don't worry about it at all.
But I saw this gadget for sale and thought it was so clever that I just had to see how well it actually worked. It's a small device, about two inches square, that contains an array of multi-colored LEDs. Starting at dusk and continuing for a settable amount of time, it blinks the LEDs to simulate what it looks like when someone is watching TV. I've got mine aimed at the ceiling in our second floor TV room, and when I'm outside after dark it really does look just like someone is watching TV there. If you drive down any street at night, you'll see lots of windows that look just like this. The simulation is good enough that even with careful inspection I couldn't tell it was fake. The price is quite low, and the power consumption is also quite low – this would cost only a few pennies per night to operate. I'd be willing to bet that it's effective at deterring the type of burglar – the most common type – that will avoid entering a home that appears to be occupied.
Well done, whoever dreamed this up. Very clever!
Yesterday afternoon we had a nice lunch at Angie's (their pot roast special – delicious!), to Aggie's for a nice ice cream cone (also delicious!), and then out for a drive up to Hardware Ranch with Miki and Race along for the ride. The fall color on the drive up to Hardware Ranch was just gorgeous – the oranges of oaks and the reds of maples were all around us, and the yellow of box elders and quaking aspen were starting to appear as well. We have friends coming in for a visit on Sunday; I'm hoping the color is still good for them to enjoy. We didn't see much wildlife, especially not birds, in the rain – but Debbie got a good view of a northern Harrier, and we both got to watch a meadowlark she spotted sitting in a bush just six feet or so from the truck. We also saw two groups of deer, and a gorgeous rainbow (it was raining lightly on most of the trip). Some photos from the trip below:
Thursday, September 22, 2016
Nature's Miracle Jaw Scoop, pictured at right. I chose this photo because it shows the working end – a simple-looking toothy set of jaws. The thing works incredibly well. To compare it to the old-fashioned rake is like comparing a SpaceX rocket to a dime-store Roman Candle. But here's the thing: even though it's quite obvious how the mechanism is put together and how it moves, I cannot come up with a rational explanation for how well it works. I've concluded, therefore, that this product is the result of a collaboration between Gandalf, Thorin, and Elrond – it must be deeply infused with magic to work as well as it does. There's no skill required of the operator: you just pull the handle to open the jaws of pooply death, drop it over the offending turd pile, let go of the handle, and lift up. The turd pile is removed, everything else remains. It's truly a wonderful thing. If you own a dog and you don't already have one of these, order it now. You can thank me later. Even if you don't own a dog, you might want one of these so you can marvel at its functional perfection!
Peeps Eyeglasses Cleaner. This doesn't require any magic to work; it's obvious how it works once you use it. It comes in a little case that's easy to carry, it includes a little brush for getting dust off, but the really good part is what you see in the photo: two small carbon-fiber pads that squeeze against both sides of your lens at the same time. You simply swipe these around a bit, and every trace of dirt and oil is gone from your glasses, presto! I had high hopes for its utility just on examining the advertisement; the reality is even better than that. This is the first thing I've found that does a flawless job of cleaning lenses in nearly 60 years of wearing glasses. If you are a glasses wearer and care at all about clean lenses (I know some people really don't care, but I sure do!), then just go get one of these. You'll love 'em!
Our builder's crew showed up and finished “skinning” the roof of our new mud room. After that, our roofer showed up and installed the waterproof underlayment (that goes under the steel, which he says he'll have up early next week). Some photos:
The door cutout isn't the right size yet. The door going in there is a normal sized door (36" wide), but it will have a glassed arch over the top of it, and sidelights on each side. The hole you see in the second photo will actually be wider (to accommodate the sidelights); the overall hole may be shorter (once we get the door and see how high the arch turned out to be). The three doors we bought for the three different parts of our construction project all turned out to be custom doors, so we can't just look up the dimensions in a catalog.
There was a bit of urgency about the downspouts because we have 3" of rain in the forecast for the next few days. That's also what motivated the builder and roofer to show up today. After the builders got done, I ran and got some plastic to staple up over the rough cutouts for the door and windows in the mud room. And it poured last night! There's a small leak somewhere in the mud room, but it's basically dry - no harm done. The sun room is completely dry. This storm was its first real test, and it passed with flying colors. Yay!
In between working with all the contractors and putting up plastic, I also managed to finish working on the wiring in Debbie's office. You'd never know all that equipment and cabling was there! I didn't take photos yet because I haven't cleaned up (that's on this morning's agenda). I'll take a couple photos when that's finished.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
In the morning, and in between other projects, I worked on Debbie's office. Her beautiful new office furniture really shouldn't be festooned with electronic infrastructure gear (router, switch, etc.) and a bazillion cables. So I'm in the process of mounting all that gear up underneath her furniture, out of sight altogether. Only the gear she actually needs to touch and see will be visible on her desk, and nearly all the cables will be hidden from view. I'm about halfway done with that now. The challenging mechanical part of that project was mounting the gear, and I've finished that. I did it by fabricating brackets out of aluminum bar stock, and screwing them into the bottom of the slabs that make her table and desk top. It worked great!
Also yesterday, our builder showed up and started framing the mud room roof (photos as of last night below). They're already here this morning to finish the job, and our roofer should be here later to put waterproofing on the top (the standing seam steel will come later). I'm going to staple some clear plastic up on the window and door holes this afternoon – there's 2.5" of rain in our forecast, starting this evening and continuing through Saturday. If I don't button that up a bit, we're going to have a swimming pool in there! Last night I could begin to see, for the first time, how the mud room will change the appearance of our house...
Monday, September 19, 2016
So yesterday I put all the screws back in, and then my brother Scott came down to help me move all this stuff. He and I moved the larger desk (in pieces) up to my office on the second story of our barn, and then we moved Debbie's desk (in a single piece) to her second floor office in the house. That desk weighs 270 pounds (it's built out of solid black locust logs). We used a complicated set of methods to move it. First, we strapped it to a hand truck, padding it with a blanket and cardboard to prevent damage to the top (a 4" thick slab of black locust). Then we rolled it out of the barn, where I had unpacked it from its shipping pallet. After that, we skidded it carefully onto my tractor's forklift, and (very slowly) moved it over to our front door, and through it onto the floor of our still-under-construction mud room. There we strapped it back to the hand truck, brought it into the front door, and wiggled it over to directly in front of the stairs to the second floor. Now came the really, really hard part. I got above the desk, on the stairs, and pulled on the hand truck's handles. Scott got below the desk, and lifted up. With a bit of coordination, a lot of straining, and much groaning and moaning, we managed to lift that up one stair at a time. We rested between stairs. Fourteen times we did that, and finally got it up onto the second floor. Then we had one last challenge: the desk's smallest dimension was 30.5", and the doorway into Debbie's office was 29.5" wide after we removed the door. The desk is made with a slab of black locust being held up by two pedestals containing drawers. Between them is a 28" clear space. So we laid the desk on its back side, on a piece of cardboard on the floor. Then we skidded one pedestal through the door, rotating as we went, and then skidded the other pedestal through the door. With this technique we had about 3" of clearance – made it! And now the desk is standing in Debbie's office, undamaged. Scott and I sustained all the damage that occurred during the effort! :)
Last night Debbie and I traveled down to Ogden with Cabo and Mako for their first puppy class. It went well, and they really enjoyed meeting all the other puppies (all border collies!). We're going to take just one puppy in the future, though – probably just Cabo. Mako was very distracted by Cabo's barking when she was on the sidelines.
After the class, we stopped at Freddy's for a chocolate milk shake. They were busy, and the service was slow. I gave my order and just hung around, looking at the posters in the lobby. I wasn't antsy at all, but after around five minutes of waiting, a middle-aged gentleman came out and introduced himself to me as the manager. Then he told me he'd noticed how long I'd been waiting, and asked me if I was a veteran. The chain was started by WWII veterans, and prominently displays its origins, so I wasn't completely surprised by the question. When I answered in the affirmative, the manager said: “Then we owe you a meal - anything you want - on the house!” He said further that at Freddy's, they disliked making veterans wait. Now that was a surprise! But unfortunately I wasn't actually hungry, and told him so. He then suggested that I get some “chicken tenders”, as they weren't that large. Ok, said I, and wandered back out to the truck with the shakes we wanted, and a meal I didn't. I'd never had chicken tenders before, so I had no idea want to expect. The bag he gave me had five of them in it, each about the size and shape of a medium-sized pickle. They were pleasantly breaded chunks of chicken, deep-fried (I think), and actually pretty darned good. They came with some barbecue sauce I didn't even try; the chicken was tasty all on its own.
I slept reasonably well last night, I think because of the desk-related exertions :)
Sunday, September 18, 2016
In the late afternoon we headed for Murray, Utah, just south of Salt Lake City. We were first going to take a look at a car, then heading for dinner with some of Debbie's dog agility friends.
Red Iguana, where we met up with seven fellow dog people – eight women and me. :) The dinner did not disappoint, of course. I had one of the specials, a dish they called chili relleno nogales. I call it heavenly; there's a photo of it at right. The chili (done perfectly, of course) tasted like an Anaheim chili, but I've never seen an Anaheim chili that big. It was lightly breaded in egg batter, like a chili relleno should be. The stuffing was complex. I could pick out the tastes of cheese, mushrooms, and raisins – but the spices I couldn't reverse-engineer. There were pomegranate seeds sprinkled on the top. Black beans and rice accompanied it. Despite the size of that thing, I still had room for dessert: flan and Mexican hot chocolate, both wonderful. Debbie seemed just as pleased with her selection, though after tasting my chili relleno she thought maybe she'd made the wrong choice. I'll note, though, that none of her dinner remained by the time we left :) We went home with very happy tummies. It was nice to see all the dog people, too. We did get to talk some, but the restaurant was so loud that it was challenging to have even a short, simple conversation. No matter; just being with each other, surrounded by smiles and happy faces was more than enough.
It was a very nice day...
Saturday, September 17, 2016
This suddenly active social life is quite overwhelming us!
Friday, September 16, 2016
Nearly all of the remaining furniture for Debbie's office was delivered yesterday. As I write this, it's sitting on pallets in our barn, still completely wrapped. It will probably be the weekend before I can get to it – there's so much going on the next few days! This shipment includes a shorter desk that (I hope!) will actually fit into Debbie's office, an office chair for her, and the refinished desktop for the longer desk that will go into my office. So many projects to work on! This one involves lots of physical labor for me. First I have to carry the longer desk into my second floor barn office, all 300 pounds of it (in pieces, of course). Then I have to disassemble Debbie's 200 pound desk and carry all the pieces from the barn to her upstairs office in the house. Then I have to reassemble both desks and move all the stuff back onto them. Yikes!
Then we heard from several contractors. Promises, promises ... we got lots of promises. The builder promises to be here “early next week” to frame the mud room. It will be fascinating to see his interpretation of “early”. Then the lawn and sprinkler guy, now three weeks late, promised to be here on Monday (and possibly even today). So far he's promised about five dates and missed them all, so I'm certainly not holding my breath on that one! Finally, our air conditioning contractor who wants to plumb my diesel and gasoline tanks called with some not-so-good news: he finally found a source for the plastic-coated pipe to run the fuel underground. Why is that bad news? Because of the cost: $8.50 a foot (and we need 120 ft), plus about $2.50 a foot for shipping. Yikes! We're doing some more research on that one!
Early in the drive we came across this little watering hole with a plant I don't know, and have never seen here before, growing in it. What caught my eye was that from a distance it looked like a little conifer forest growing in the water! A similar watering hole 50' away had none of them. The second photo shows a closeup of the plant in question.
One of my neighbors liked to tease me that we were the only people in Paradise who had never been to Old Ephraim's grave. Well, our route took us within about a mile of that, so we did a little dido and headed over there. Old Ephraim was a large grizzly bear that was killing livestock at a prodigious rate, until a local man finally killed him in 1923. I took a few photos to prove I'd been there :) Note to my ursaphobic friends: there are no longer any grizzly bears in our area!
The fall color was the highlight of the drive. The skies were mostly cloudy, but the occasional hole in the clouds would send bright sun rays down onto beautiful patches. Most of the color was the reds of maples and oranges of scrub oaks (and a few larger oaks). At the higher altitudes, the yellows and orange-yellows of aspen were just starting. The next week should really be something! Enjoy:
It's a beautiful place we live in. It's really rather amazing to have stuff like this just up the road from our house...